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Parents are nervous, excited; students, ready to learn

Kentwood Mom Terri Pimpleton was a bit nervous about having her children, first-grader Noah Winbush, second-grader Kahlil Wunbush II and eighth-grader Onereal Webb start school in person after learning virtually all last school year.

“I’m still just a little nervous, but they wanted to go back so bad,” Pimpleton said, noting that the pandemic continues. “There’s still COVID.”

Mom Edith Garcia and first-grader Aaliyah Garcia are checked in at Meadowlawn

For its back-to-school open house, prior to school opening Aug. 23, Meadowlawn Elementary welcomed parents and students, many who were returning to in-person for the first time since March 2020. District-wide, families visited classrooms and met teachers at Kentwood’s 10 elementary schools.

Last school year, students had the option to attend in person or virtually, and, at Meadowlawn, between a quarter and a third of students learned virtually. This year, elementary students will all attend in person unless they or someone in their household has a high-risk condition. Sixth- through 12th-graders can opt for the Kentwood International Virtual Academy. As of last week, just 20 elementary and 60 secondary students were enrolled virtually.

 “I’m so happy you are here in person,” Principal Tim Hargis said to Kahlil and Noah. Kahlil said he was excited to be back, for “everything,” especially art and gym. Noah, who will be in school in person for the first time at the school, said he likes the idea of recess and art. 

Mom Edith Garcia gripped the hand of daughter, Aaliyah Garcia, who’s starting first grade after excelling in the district’s summer school program. Aaliyah was in person for the end of last school year, following virtual learning, which was “really hard and frustrating,” Garcia said.

“She’s excited. We are excited. I think she will learn more this time,” said Garcia, who also has a freshman and seventh-grader. “I’m feeling a little bit more relief now that they are going back.”

Attendance parapro Barbara Young said helping register students feels extra special right now. 

“My excitement is to see the joy of the kids who are excited and starting fresh,” Young said. “Now (that) everything is in person, you get to meet the kids one-on-one and talk to parents.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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